For a while now I’ve been meaning to travel deep into the flatlands to visit Holme Fen, supposedly the lowest land point in Great Britain. Obviously to manage such an achievement would take great planning and much effort, so on Saturday morning after a few minutes of clarification via the world wide web (admittedly not that much planning), I set out to make my mark.
To be honest living just under an hour away from Holme Fen did make the journey a little less arduous than had I been searching for height rather than depth, so in order to inject some jeopardy into the proceedings I did at least leave before sun-rise.
Originally Holme Fen sat within the Whittlesey Mere (at that time the largest lake in Southern England), which was drained by a group of local landowners in the mid 1800s in order to convert the area into (very successful) farmland. William Wells, the leader of the group, understood that draining the land would bring changes, so in order to help measure the evolving landscape he erected a post deep into the ground at the lowest point in the area.
The post (originally wood but replaced with cast iron a few years later) was set in 1848 with the top being cut level with the surface of the ground, and since that point the land around it has dropped by over 13 feet. In the picture above (taken before the sun came up) you can see the top of the post high above the ground, whilst the picture below shows two further marking points made as the years passed.
Holme Fen itself is one of the largest silver birch woodlands in Britain, contains several hectares of rare acid grassland and there’s still plenty of water to be found, despite the drainage that previously took place.
As ever with the fens, it’s a beautiful but somewhat peculiar landscape. And if my (admittedly very limited) experience is anything to go by it’s one that is largely ignored, as for the two or three hours I was there I didn’t see another soul.
Filed under: Place, Pyschogeography, Travel | Leave a Comment
Tags: Holme Fen, Lowes Point In Great Britain, The Fens, The Great Fen Project, We're Low We're Low, Whittlesey Mere, William Wells
Today has seen a disappointing lack of coverage regarding Penguin Awareness Day. Hopefully the various news networks will realise the error of their ways and make amends on World Penguin Day later in the year.
Filed under: Books, Penguin Books | Leave a Comment
Tags: Penguin, Penguin Awareness Day, Penguin Books, World Penguin Day
On Friday August 8, 2003 an interview with Graham Fellows appeared in The Guardian. I don’t actually recall the date in question, however the joy of the internet means that a copy of it sits quietly in a corner of his website to reward those digging deep enough to find it.
In an attempt to explain what influences his work, Fellows talks with the journalist Will Hodgkinson about a handful of his favourite books, one of which he says he returns to time and time again.
“When I finish a tour I’m exhausted and I need a rest,” he says. “Then after about a week I think I’m never going to be creative again and go slightly mad. At which point I always read The Strange Voyage of Donald Crowhurst by Nicholas Tomalin and Ron Hall.”
I wasn’t aware of the story of Donald Crowhurst at that point, so I immediately sought out a copy of the book, and ever since have entirely understood the need to return to it whenever the path ahead seems a little unclear.
The story, which tells of Crowhurst attempting (and sadly failing) to sail single-handedly round the world as part of the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race back in the late sixties, is a fascinating and deeply affecting read about a horribly misguided attempt to find fame and glory. An attempt hampered by virtue of it being made by an inexperienced sailor in an untried and ill prepared boat, rushing to begin in order to leave before the departure deadline had passed.
For those of you who haven’t immersed yourself in Crowhurst’s story I’m not going to do all the work for you – after all where’s the fun it that, other than to say that things didn’t end well. The possibility of which he was all too well aware of as these words dictated onto tape early on in the journey attest.
“The thing about single-handing is it puts a great deal of pressure on the man, it explores his weaknesses with a penetration that very few other occupations can manage. If he’s lazy he’ll be twice as lazy when he’s on his own, if he’s easily dispirited it’ll knock the stuffing out of him in no time at all.”
The reason that Donald Crowhurst and his story have reappeared on my radar this time is as a result of hearing the news that a film based on the book is being made featuring Colin Firth in the lead role, due for release some time during 2017.
Unsurprisingly this won’t be the first time the story has appeared on film, if you can’t wait for The Mercy later this year you could track down Horse Latitudes that was released in 1976 (although you’d be doing well), Les Quarantièmes rugissants (The Roaring Forties) from 1982, the 1986 film Гонка века (Race of the Century) or Crowhurst, a Nic Roeg backed film shot in 2015 which (with no doubt unintended irony) doesn’t appear to have ever seen the light of day.
There’s also a pretty decent documentary available, Deep Water, released back in 2006 from the same people who put together Touching The Void. However my advice, if you want it, is to start with the book. Always start with the book.
Filed under: Books, Film, Mental Health, Travel | Leave a Comment
Tags: #Colin Firth, #Crowhurst, #Deep Water, #Гонка века, #Graham Fellows, #Horse Latitudes, #Les Quarantièmes rugissants, #Nic Roeg, #Nicholas Tomalin, #Ron Hall, #Sailing, #Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, #The Mercy, #The Strange Voyage of Donald Crowhurst, #Touching The Void, #Will Hodkinson, Donald Crowhurst, John Shuttleworth, Teignmouth
It’s been an odd start to the year, not a bad start just an odd one.
So it’s been useful to have a variety of props available to help ease the all embracing gloom that is January.
Props including these unassuming practical action stickers from Alyson Fielding, which she’s made because it’s often “easy to feel overwhelmed” with what needs to be done. Each sticker details “a tiny thing that can be done right now” which in turn might help the move onto bigger things.
I think they’re great and they’re quickly appearing on a variety of surfaces in and around the world in which I work, fingers crossed that they help craft some magic.
Filed under: Ideas | Leave a Comment
Tags: #Practical Action Stickers #Stickers #Alyson Fielding
Over the last few years I’ve become more and more interested in the world of field recordings.
I think I was sold on the idea after hearing Felicity Ford talk at one of the early Boring conferences about Georges Perec and the infra-ordinary, and the recordings she’d made (and played to us) of the coffee dispensing vending machine at Oxford Brookes University.
(If you’re not aware of Perec go and investigate him further: “What we need to question is bricks, concrete, glass, our table manners, our utensils, our tools, the way we spend our time, our rhythms. To question that which seems to have ceased forever to astonish us. We live, true, we breathe, true; we walk, we open doors, we go down staircases, we sit at a table in order to eat, we lie down on a bed in order to sleep. How? Why? Where? When? Why?”)
Until now I’ve played about trying to make recordings with my mobile phone, and whilst they’ve been fine they have been a little rudimentary. So I’m now the proud owner of an Olympus LS-14 audio recorder and we’ll see how things progress from hereon in.
Here’s the first recording from the new machine welcoming in 2017 (happy new year to one and all) – admittedly still rough and ready, although things should improve further when I get the windshield for the microphones.
Filed under: Field Recordings | Leave a Comment
Tags: Boring Conference, Felicity Ford, Georges Perec, Happy New Year!, Infra-ordinary
I wrote the blogpost below over five years ago.
And since then I’ve become considerably less convinced that I am in fact invincible.
Despite the encouraging words of the estimable Mrs Weir, whose positivity should probably be made available on the National Health, I sometimes find my enthusiasm for what life has to offer less than impressive for someone born into such a comfortable situation.
So it’s good in some respects to re-read what I’ve previously written years later as it allows me, if nothing else, to realise that I’m not in fact wallowing in some kind of self inflicted fug but am just experiencing the ebb and flow of my normal self. That’s perhaps not an ideal situation, but the older I get the more I realise it’s a situation, and that’s fine too.
Anyways I still love this song despite it’s frailties, and should probably have it played to me every morning in an attempt to jump-start my serotonin, because quite frankly what other options are there?
I’ve no idea who this song is by. I think I took it from the band’s MySpace page, which shows how long it’s been knocking about on my hard drive for, because I haven’t investigated a band through the hideous hallways of Mr Murdoch’s least propitious investment for some time now. Anyone any ideas?
The reason it’s here is because I love it and I think you should too – it’s wildly unassuming and not hugely well recorded, but I think it’s just grand. It came to mind particularly after reading Miranda Sawyer’s quite bleak but additionally quite life affirming (which is a difficult balancing act to achieve) piece in Sunday’s Observer about “the quiet desperation of a midlife crisis”, because although plainly I’m not invincible sometimes it pays to think positively.
And for those of you interested no I’m not, well I don’t think I am, although given that I’ve been in a self induced crisis since before I can remember it’s a little difficult to tell.
Filed under: Mental Health | Leave a Comment
Tags: I Am Invincible, Invincible, Midlife Crisis, Miranda Sawyer, Mrs Weir, MySpace
Noel Coward’s assertion that the county I call home is “very flat” is a little unfair (locals would suggest that ‘undulating’ is a more accurate description). However if you study the maps where Norfolk heads towards Lincolnshire it is reasonable to say that contour lines are an infrequent occurrence .
Sadly as a result of this the flatlands never seem to get a particularly good press, which is a shame because despite there being a lack of geographical features it’s occasionally a spectacular place to spend time in.
Filed under: Norfolk, Travel | 3 Comments
Tags: Flatlands, Noel Coward, Norfolk, Ongar Hill, Private Lives